Project Design: Managing Change
As we all know every project, from the smallest to the largest, is subject to change over its lifecycle. The client’s requirements and budgets shift around, site restrictions come into play, and equipment is superceded. It’s how we manage and control these changes that is key to retaining the profitability within a project.
First, there are the client’s expectations to manage, keeping them up to date with any impact a change could have on the functionality and usability of the finished system.
Second, there is the cost implication of the change itself and documenting this in a fully itemised change control the client can sign off as accepted.
Then there is the careful documentation of the change itself, updating any drawings with the change and reissuing these with updated revision status and the reason for the change.
Finally there is the paper trail. Anything relating to change requests on a project should always be agreed on in writing, so that there is a clear path of request and response documenting how and why the change came about and the implications of it.
This may all seem very obvious and straightforward to people who have studied change control in a project management course. However it is surprising how many people in our industry don't manage change properly and instead chose the path of least resistance by absorbing everything that changes into the projects margin.
Let's look at some simple ways change control can help to retain the profit in a job and even lead to additional sales.
In our first scenario let's consider how a change from the client might look. This could be something as simple as when chatting with the client on the phone they make a comment, "I would like to reduce the size of the TV in the master bedroom. After looking at the drawings there is less space than I first thought in between the doors to the balcony, on the wall opposite the bed."
In the second scenario let’s take a look at a change from site on a similar subject to the first from an email: The master bedroom is now having full width sliding glass doors out onto the balcony. This leaves no wall opposite the bed to mount a TV on, so please remove this along with the associated wiring.
In our third and final scenario we look at how the client’s original request and the change from site can be both be addressed and converted into an opportunity. Here the installer suggests to the client that the TV can still be incorporated into the new scheme for the master bedroom by fitting it on a motorised lift mechanism at the foot of the bed.
All three of these scenarios are requests for change to the original specification of the project and each one will have a different impact and needs to be dealt with in a different way.
The first change is a simple request to reduce the size of the TV, as this was made over the phone it is documented by confirming the change back to the client in an email. A simple change control is drafted documenting the reduction in cost from the original sized screen to the new smaller version and any changes required in mounting hardware. Assuming elevation drawings have already been made a design fee would be included to cover reworking these and the project management time is also included to cover managing the change.
As the second change request was received in writing, it is already documented. However as this change has an impact on the functionality of the system this is documented and passed on to the client along with the reduction in cost to remove this TV and associated hardware and wiring: ‘We have been advised that the wall we had planned to mount the TV on in the master bedroom has been removed and therefore a request has been received to remove the TV in the master bedroom. This means that video services such as Sky, Apple TV and Freeview will no longer be available in the master bedroom.’ To most people this probably seems very obvious but it is important to make this clear to the client. It is quite possible that they may not realise that their decision to change the doors in the master bedroom to full width will mean they no longer have space to mount a TV. As before, the change control would include design time to remove the TV point from the wiring plans and time required to manage this change.
The final scenario is something that I would recommend preparing a change control for and presenting it at the same time as the above. This way if the client didn’t realise that the decision to change the doors would mean they would not be able to have video services in the master bedroom, they can see an alternative price to mount the TV in a different way. Again time would be included to design the new mounting method of the TV and to manage the change but the major benefit here is that we have added an expensive mounting solution to the TV which will have good margin and will actually increase the overall profitability of the project.
Aside from the points set out above generally with changes there is one basic concept to observe: We should think of the final pre-installation design as a project milestone and it is best practice to postpone any changes that come up during the design phase until this milestone is reached.
Next month we will follow on from this to look at correct revision, versioning and approval of design drawings.
Keith Jones studied Product Design at Central St. Martins where he graduated in 1996. Since then Keith worked in numerous high end audio outlets, culminating in owning and running his own AV installation company from 2001-2008. After a career break he started Jones designs in August 2009 which has recently morphed into a Ltd. company called designflow, with his business partner Kelly Ashforth. Designflow aims to increase awareness of design in AV and help installers win jobs and create proper documentation for them.